What is document automation & how does it work?
The (In)Sight Report, 2020, by WorkMarket posits that 70 per cent of business leaders spend between 10 to 40 per cent of their time on mundane tasks. The metric is equivalent to spending between 45 minutes to three hours daily on non-essential or non-primary duties such as searching, modifying and sending documents. For these reasons, there is an immediate call for automation in the area of document creation. One such solution is the Impress platform.
Introducing the concept of document automation
Document automation is a process that includes software and systems that help you to generate electronic documents. Using this system, you no longer need to perform the manual tasks involved in traditional document creation. Although the term seems self-explanatory, it goes way beyond.
Benefits of document automation
Enhances control and organization
The traditional manual process entails several platforms with lots of emails and endless versions of the same document. Document automation software offers higher control as the document can get stored in a single workspace. Also, there is a clear audit trail of all the activities. Another aspect is that automation also makes the document shareable across parties.
Helps mitigate errors and mistakes
Automation eliminates errors and mistakes that typically occur when building contracts and other paperwork from scratch. It does so by providing accurate and reliable templates. The result is consistency in documentation. Another advantage is that documents containing older and outdated versions of legal terms do not get sent to counterparties. Overall, this helps to save paperwork, duplication and bureaucracy.
Greater security and safety
The traditional system had legal documents stored in office cabinets. Now, this makes them vulnerable to damage and destruction. Using automation tools and solutions, such as Impress, parties can access this anytime and from anywhere through digital means. These can then be password-protected and made more secure through cloud-based storage, for instance.
Applications of document automation
The process was formerly known as document assembly. Automation, as we now know it today, caters to the process itself. With that said, creating routine documents is now easier than ever.
These fall under the gamut of legal services. While most transactions and dealing involve specifics and nitty-gritty, some are low-risk or low-value. These are standard contracts. A standardized contract is where one party sets the contractual terms. The other part has little or next-to-no scope for requesting changes. In legal services, these contracts mitigate business risks.
So, how does this work? All the legal department then does is alter names, dates, addresses and a few client-specific details. One might pause to wonder and then reflect on the practicality of this. Well, rethink your subscriptions and services. Typical examples are below.
SaaS (Software as a Service) Agreements
The SaaS agreements are already quite complex with high scope for customization. And they cover everything from liability caps, indemnities and beyond. A lot can go wrong if the legal eagles lose sight of the terms of the agreement. There are times when terms deviate from their standard form. Hence, a standardized SaaS agreement helps save the day. Also, there is less need for back-and-forth negotiations. The result is a better experience for the parties involved. The modus operandi is similar to other contracts, such as software license agreements, for instance, a Grammarly subscription for business.
In these agreements, terms and conditions of purchase get laid out. These agreements are ideal for fast-growth companies. However, the primary considerations here are the process and the content of these agreements. A lack of consistency in these aspects will bring about challenges in managing these contracts.
Master Service Agreements
Often abbreviated as MSAs, these outline terms govern commercial relationships between two parties, typically a business and its client. These agreements are a common feature in high-velocity sales companies. Without them, contract creators or sales representatives may end up sending contracts with unapproved terms. The terms can include some discounts deemed non-permissible by the finance team. Also, the legal representatives can come under threat if the indemnity caps seem unreasonable.
Tips to get with standardized contracts
First up, start with the ‘why’. That is the purpose behind the shift to improving the contract process. Create the perfect template and then move on to a user-friendly design. Legal design studies posit that traditional contracts are often overwhelming to parties. Therefore, having a user-friendly layout will lead to lesser friction for the parties.
The templates look at the format of the document. It includes font type and size, spacing and other aspects. If carefully chosen and worked over with, a template helps to make the document user-friendly. A user-centric design comes forth through linking, layering and tables. These help with the presentation of terms in the contract. The presentation then adds professionalism and cuts through the clutter.
A template removes the need for manual document creation. There is no need for drafting. What a template also does is that it replaces these with a questionnaire. When dealing with templates and the questionnaire, keep in mind the smart fields. It is the template owners that define the Q&A flow as part of the setup. Doing so helps users to self-serve on the contract. The respondents can go through the format, and once done, the answers populate the fields with accurate details. This also opens up contracting to template admins. In these, the legal teams get to ‘lock’ some parts of the contract text. Doing so prevents restricted users from accessing the document or making changes.
Note that document automation goes beyond the legal spectrum. It is also for sending invoices, notifications and letters. In essence, documentation is a written form of communication. Other uses include setting up a hybrid mail system for your company employees, invoice processing optimization. And the most important of it all is tracking. Whatever be the document type or risk category, you can track it in real-time.